210 B. POLEVOI
l'Ah, so that's it! Now I understand everything!"
Suddenly, the light went out of Anyuta's greenish eyes,
she seemed to grow older. The paleness of her face became
more marked, and tiny wrinkles, so fine that they seemed
to have been traced with a needle, appeared on her fore-
head and at the corners of her eyes, and altogether, in
her old and worn tunic and with the faded forage-cap on
her chestnut hair, she looked tired and weary. Only her
small, full, bright red mouth with the barely perceptible
down and tiny mole on the upper lip showed that she was
still young, that she had barely reached twenty.
It happens in Moscow that you walk along a wide street
in the shade of magnificent houses and then you turn off
that street, take a dozen steps or so, and you find yourself
before a small, squat house with tiny windows dim with
age. It was in a house like this that Anyuta lived. They
climbed a narrow staircase that smelt of cats and kerosene
to the upper floor. The girl opened the door with a key.
Stepping past a bag of provisions and some tin bowls
and billycans that were kept in the cool of the small
passage, they entered a dark and deserted kitchen, passed
through a short corridor and came to a low door. A
little, lean old woman poked her head out of a door
"Anna Danilovna, there's a letter for you," she said
and, gazing inquisitively at the young people until they
had entered the room, she vanished.
Anyuta's father was a lecturer at an institute. When the
institute was evacuated, Anyuta's parents went with it,
and the two rooms, crowded like an antique store with
furniture in linen covers, were left to the girl's care. The
furniture, the old, heavy hangings over the door and win-
dows, the pictures on the walls and the statuettes and vases
on the piano gave off an odour of mustiness and desola-
"You must excuse the disorder. I am living at the hos-
pital and from there I go straight to the university. I only
visit this place now and again," said Anyuta flushing,
hastily removing the litter from the table together with the
She left the room, returned and replaced the tablecloth,
carefully smoothing the edges.